Reducing cardiovascular stress with positive self-stereotypes of aging

J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2000 Jul;55(4):P205-13. doi: 10.1093/geronb/55.4.p205.


We examined whether aging self-stereotypes, or older individuals' beliefs about elderly people, can influence cardiovascular function. Older individuals were subliminally exposed to either positive or negative aging stereotypes. Then all participants faced mathematical and verbal challenges. Those exposed to the negative aging stereotypes demonstrated a heightened cardiovascular response to stress, measured by systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate, compared with those exposed to positive aging stereotypes. The aging stereotypes appeared to influence the outcome variable of skin conductance in the same way. It appears that the negative aging stereotypes acted as direct stressors, whereas the positive aging stereotypes reduced cardiovascular stress. These findings indicate that negative aging stereotypes may contribute to adverse health outcomes in elderly persons without their awareness. The results also suggest that positive aging stereotypes could be used in interventions to reduce cardiovascular stress.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Arousal*
  • Blood Pressure*
  • Diastole
  • Female
  • Galvanic Skin Response
  • Heart Rate*
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Concept*
  • Stereotyping*
  • Subliminal Stimulation
  • Systole